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Saturday 20 September 2014

Living the dream: the brothers who grew up in a cake shop

After joining their mother's bakery, Barry and Bernard Broderick brought it to another level

Sean Gallagher

Published 27/07/2014 | 00:00

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THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS: Sean Gallagher with Bernard and Barry Broderick of Broderick’s/Ina’s Kitchen Desserts. Photo: Tony Gavin

While brothers Barry and Bernard Broderick both studied business in university, their real education started much earlier in life. It started in their family kitchen where, as children, they would help their mother mix the ingredients to make cakes for her home bakery business.

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Today, the brothers head up that business and in addition have added their own unique range of branded treats for the 'grab and go' market - biscuit cakes, granola bars, flapjacks and chocolate brownies.

With the arrival of more and more cafes, coffee shops and food service outlets on our high streets, growth in the snack food sector has literally exploded and Broderick's now has turnover of €6m per year.

They have two main target markets: retail and food service/catering. Their retail customers include Tesco, Insomnia, Applegreen, Topaz and Spar while on the food service/catering side of the business, they currently supply a host of independent cafes, coffee shops and restaurants with trays of fresh and frozen biscuit cakes, brownies, muffins, cupcakes and scones.

While initially focused on the Irish market, the company now enjoys a thriving export business with sales growing in the UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Dubai, Japan and the Middle East.

"We are due to launch shortly in Norway and have had a lot of interest from the US and China," explains Barry.

In addition to these markets, they are now active in the in-flight sector, where their co-branded granola bars have been introduced by Aer Lingus on their transatlantic routes as an alternative to their traditional tea and scone snack. More recently, other airlines have also followed, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, Delta Airlines, Cityjet and Ryanair.

Theirs is an incredible success story. So, as I arrive to their production facility in Walkinstown in Dublin, I am excited to learn more about the Brodericks's business - and maybe even sample some of the bars.

"We pride ourselves on being an artisan bakery with a huge emphasis on quality and on using natural ingredients," explains Barry as we don white coats and hairnets to enter the production area.

Inside, staff are busy mixing ingredients, pouring them into large, deep trays, racking them on shelved trolleys and wheeling them into massive ovens. Once cooked, they are allowed to cool before a team of skilled staff arrive to pour, and gently spread chocolate and caramel layers over the now hardened biscuit bases.

It's a dream to see them in action, each one totally engrossed in their individual part yet each so dependent on the other to make the perfect product. The brothers hand me a long blade to have a go - it's not as easy as it looks.

Next it's on to the cutting and packing area where some full trays are wrapped ready for delivery to catering customers while others are cut into full bar sizes or mini bites and individually wrapped and boxed for the retail market.

Each product has been given a fun and quirky name such as Tiff Toff in the Tuffen (Belgian chocolate biscuit cake), Rollypolly Crunchy Oats in a Stickywicky Coat (Hand-made granola slice) and Gooey Oozy Chocolatey Solid Brick (Belgian chocolate brownie). The packaging, too, has been designed to stand out with lots of stories about the antics of the two brothers. All part of a plan and strategy to personalise the brand and to help it stand out in a crowded snack market. And it's a strategy that is clearly working.

We are then joined on our tour by the woman who started it all off: their mother, Ina.

It's immediately apparent where Barry and Bernard get their passion and enthusiasm for the business from. Ina explains how she had been visiting her brother in the bar he was running when she noticed him ordering cheesecakes and desserts from a bakery supplier and immediately thought to herself that she could make them.

"Soon afterwards I started supplying local bars and coffee shops right from our family's kitchen table," she tells me. "And when the boys were very young, they used to help me crush biscuits to make the bases for my cheesecakes," she says smiling at the pair.

She quickly outgrew her kitchen space and moved to a dedicated unit in the nearby Terenure Enterprise Centre. Around the same time Barry graduated with a Master's degree in Business from the Smurfit School of Business and decided to join his mother's business. Again things grew, and Barry and his mother decided to buy their current premises in Walkinstown and converted it into a specialised food production facility.

A few years later, and having completed a business degree at Trinity, Bernard too joined in. While Ina's business was continuing to thrive, the brothers realised that, as a result of the explosion in the number of coffee shops and food outlets, there was an opening for a new range of 'grab and go' confectionery products. And so they came up with the Broderick's brand.

"People were looking for a coffee and a bar or cake they could enjoy on the go," says Bernard. "Most other products were made from low-quality ingredients and low-quality chocolate, so we decided to create a brand based on high- quality natural ingredients.

"Broderick's was created to reflect our cheeky and fun attitude to business but also our deep love and passion for what we do," he adds.

"Our mother is still involved on the production and business side and is a real mother figure at the bakery. And she's always on hand to keep us in line - should we require the odd clip around the ear," says Barry with a laugh.

Much of the advice the pair got at the time was not to manufacture the products themselves but to outsource to other existing producers. It's advice they declined.

"Having grown up with manufacturing, we knew what we are at - and it also gives us greater flexibility to try out with new product ideas and if we like something, we can put it into production straight away," explains Bernard. "For example, when President Obama visited Ireland we launched a limited edition 'Obamarama Barocky Road' bar. It really drew attention to the fun and quirky aspect of our brand and helped get us recognition," he adds.

"Ours is a highly competitive sector. We are up against major brands with much cheaper, lower-quality products but who also have much bigger budgets - so getting pricing and marketing right is essential," explains Barry.

To differentiate themselves, the brothers focused on the quality of their products and the fact that they use only the best ingredients, including real Irish butter, Irish oats and Belgian chocolate. They even hand-make their own caramel to a closely guarded recipe.

"Our bars are probably the closest you can get to home-made and there is nothing like them on the market within that price range," insists Barry.

The most pivotal decision the pair made was to launch into the export market, firstly in France and then the UK.

"It takes great time, energy, patience and considerable resources to build successful relationships overseas but that investment is now paying off. We continue to pick up new markets, such as Japan, and more recently, a distributor in China, which could open up a huge potential market for us there," explains Bernard.

Similarly, the opportunity to enter the in-flight market with Aer Lingus opened up a whole new sector for the business, as well as helping to introduce their product to a totally new audience.

"We get emails from people in random parts of the world wanting to know where they can buy our bars and sometimes send cases out with DHL," adds Bernard.

It's still very much a family-run business, and there's a friendly and personal feel to the place; many of their 60 staff have been with the business now for over ten years.

"They really play a vital part in building the business and they all share our values and our commitment to quality in all we do," insists Barry.

Looking to the future, the pair see lots of potential to grow across all sections of the market. In particular, they are excited to have recently secured shelf space in selected Tesco and Supervalu stores throughout Ireland.

"We feel that being stocked by the multiples will make us a household name here in Ireland. We're confident that UK multiples will follow," explains Bernard excitedly.

The story of Broderick's and Ina's Kitchen Desserts is another example of a kitchen table start-up that grew into a global Irish business. Not only did Ina Broderick start a business, she also helped sow the seeds of entrepreneurship in the minds of her two sons, Barry and Bernard.

Both followed her into the family business, adding their own dynamism, creativity and fresh ideas for new products and new markets. With these new ingredients, the once successful local business has now become an even bigger and truly global success.

As I leave the Broderick family behind and take a bite from my chocolate-covered biscuit bar, I understand why.

 

Barry and Bernard's advice for other businesses

1. Make sure that there is a market for your product

"It might sound very obvious but research, research and research again. You need to be confident that there is a demand out there for your product and that there is room in the market for it."

2. Be realistic in your pricing

"You have to ask yourself, is someone really going to pay that price for your product? Is it that much better than what's out there? Allow for economies of scale down the road but not in the short-term."

3. Believe in your product

"If you are not passionate about your product, how do you expect others to be? Going out on your own can be scary. There are so many dark days in business that you will need 100pc confidence."

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